The soundwalk

The Triptych choreographers had a soundwalk on Tuesday with Dany Mitzman, during which they recorded the sounds of Bassano del Grappa. I was also invited to take part in the experiment… These pictures will give you an idea of the sounds which grabbed our attention.

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Tryptich 2012 has started!

This is the first week of Tryptich 2012. This year the involved choreographers are Ziyian Kwan (Vancouver), Peter Trotzmer (Montréal) and Marco D’Agostin (Italy). In this journey they are accompanied by Ginelle Chagnon.

One of the first meetings the participants have is with Dany Mitzman, introducing the arts of sounds in radio-features. The subjects brings up various issues related to timing, rhythm, the use of sound both in a radio work and in a dance work.

The three choreographers are invited to a soundwalk through Bassano del Grappa, having at their disposal two microphones and a recorder. One microphone is for environmental noise, it hears everything, the other is a sort of zoom in to focus on specific sounds. Which sounds did the choreographers choose?

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16th August – Chiesa di San Buonaventura

The disgregation of sounds into random samples occasionally allows some room for semi-private, unintelligible discussions among the three artists, sitting on chairs, as if they were waiting, acting like an alive keyboard.

Then, everyone poses in what they called “the protector” scene, they look so hieratic. Heretic. Erotic.

Sampling each other’s voice

11th August

The training proposed by Jacques is a real-time impro with a view to create a tuning in of the participants’ voices. The task doesn’t necessarily imply to make sense in a story they tell, what matters is to keep the rhythm.

Jacques: “You have to sustain it and not let it drop”.

Silvia, Jacques and James are respectively first standing, then sitting in a triangle, then lying side by side while shadowing one another’s spoken “texts” or “voice samples”. Some phrases become refrains, which adds to the consistency of the composition.

Then Jacques suggests to repeat words, not whole concepts. In the end it really sounds like a band playing. Sometimes they correct one another, similarly to Vladimir and Estragon about “a bush” or “a shrub” in Waiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett.

At the Chiesa di San Buonaventura the experiment goes on, up to the creation of a sort of jam session of voices.

Here a question-answer pattern is created, while two at a time mirror each other’s movements.

In the Silvia-Jacques pair, the questions about the future are easier to process, according to Silvia, when she is moving this way, whereas Jacques tended to follow the rhythm of what Silvia said while speaking and moving at the same time. This may be a professional distortion since Jacques is also a musician.

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Jacques feels it’s harder to think than to move. Guy suggests: “You can be more free also with the words, just like you are with your body”.

The final task is to prepare sentences which will be sampled, i.e. repeated now and then with the same tone, but with no need for regularity.

Jacques: “And we should try NOT to make sense”.

A recollection in tranquillity

10th August 2011

James guides today’s session. The plan is to work with the memory of yesterday’s walk: “what struck me the most as opposed to what I’m accustomed to”.

James was struck by the absence of cars and by the presence of birds, of geese, and then by the sound of leaves while I was jumping to pluck figues from a tree.

The sounds in the houses (plates, glasses) at lunchtime stayed in Silvia’s memory the most. It was like diving into the private lives of strangers. Somehow this situation can be compared to James’s “shelter” (see picture of the first day), as James hid underneath a pile of posters, only letting his feet uncovered. “The noises of the things I don’t see are more evokative than actually seeing the action which makes a noise”.

Jacques’s memory goes to his own sounds: his clothes, his bag while walking. And moreover, sudden unidentified noises, many versions of water, like a water orchestra, and then cicada conversations.

The idea now is to work with these concepts, written on a poster, to trigger memory, recall the past and see whether this creates something in the present. Basing on this experience, the choreographers do a contact impro which, as well as being a precious exercise to process the recent experience, is also a way to strengthen the relationship within the group.

The sounds of space

9th August

From today and for the next two days the session will be led in turns by each of the three choreographers.

On the first day, it’s to Silvia.

The warming-up consists in the exploration of the sounds of the rehearsing space – the Garage Nardini.

Guy suggested a book reading, Our sonic environment and the soundscape – the tuning of the world by R. Murray Schafer. It particularly fits this moment:

“The final question will be: is the soundscape of the world an indeterminate composition over which we have no control, or are we its composers and performers, responsible for giving it form and beauty?” (p. 5, Destiny Books, Vermont, 1977).

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For the next hour Silvia suggests an exercise she did with Katarina Bakatsaki, teacher at the SNDO in Amsterdam: the participants go on a walk which is led in turns by one of the group. The “guide” leads the other participants for 15 minutes along a soundpath he/she decides on the basis of the soundscape he/she finds appealing to share. After 15 minutes the torch is passed on to the next “guide” and so on.

A question emerges: how is it possible to be connected with the guide and still keeping one’s self?

The sound experience is individual, but we are in the same space and in the same group.

A Bassano soundwalk

8th August

The focus of the first step of the Triptych project has quite spontaneously become the exploration of soundscapes in an artistic process and the way this can inform the choreographic material.

The encounter of the Triptych artists on the first day occurs through discovering each other’s taste in the selection of environmental sounds, collected during a one-to-one soundwalk with Dany Mitzman through the city of Bassano del Grappa.

In this case this goes along with the archiving of sounds, a practice which has a tradition in Montréal and Vancouver, with respect to the sounds of places which will eventually disappear. The archiving of sounds aims, then, at preserving endangered sound species, one could state.

The recording of sounds is tactfully guided by Dany, a radio-journalist who also reported on the “Boxing Bassano” project.

Dany’s interview to the artists

After meeting Dany, she plays for us a couple of radio interviews of hers and we read the relevant scripts, including notes about its editing. Dany asks a few questions:

Dany: Do you write like this for choreography?

Silvia: I use signs, pictures, I write, so it’s easier for me to have all the piece in my mind. A picture, its colours, maybe a short caption, can sum up different layers.

James: I performed a piece which was entirely written, in a score, and I already had experience with text projection.

Jacques: I used overdub.

Dany:…like in Silvia’s A corpo libero, it was the punchline…

Silvia: it’s rather to connect to the action; sometimes the balance is not easy to find. I want to grasp the idea to use dance as a way to open, not say too much.

Jacques: when you say something, you close it.

Guy: it’s the balance between recognition and surprise, although it also depends on the kind of audience.

Dany: How do you work with sounds? How important are they to you? Do you think about them since the beginning or is it the other way round?

James: sometimes you’ve got a sound-map and you choose your path, sometimes you work with a composer and you interact…

Jacques: I studied music composition and I learned dance through that.

Dany: is sound an active part of a narrative structure or is it a mood enhancer?

James: both, strategically along the piece.

Silvia: it depends on the performance, in A corpo libero I used pop music, done. In another piece I used silence, which helped me to understand its focus.

Jacques: it’s hard to separate them, the aim is to create a mood to serve the narrative.

Dany: do you connect sounds to countries, for example Italy?

Silvia: it’s a very direct, raw sound, acting-like.

Dany: for me, Italy has the sound of church bells, vespas, bars (coffee machines) and the sounds of the historic town centre as opposed to where cars can go.

Jacques: the bitonal siren is certainly European.

James: Vancouver’s sound is the rain.

Jacques: Montréal, in winter, has the chime of the sirens to warn people they have to move their cars, due to snow. It’s sort of romantic.

Guy: Flanders have the sound of carillon bells.

The soundwalk

For the soundwalk, each participant has the following at disposal:

– 15 minutes’ time

– A headset

– A digital recorder

– Dany will accompany him/her.

After the sound promenade, we listen to some of the recordings. The experience has inspired the Triptych the idea to record the sounds of bars in the three partner cities.

James: I have been a lot by the water, by the river. Then I recorded birds, steps, their rhythm on the pavet.

Silvia: I went with the goal to find a specific sound which I couldn’t find. In the end I was more open, and right in the middle of silence [her recording took place during lunchtime, when people are normally at home] I was surprised by some sounds all of a sudden. For example water dripping from scaffolding, a mysterious sound you don’t recognize at first. The sound helped me to see, because through the headphones I could hear it enhanced.

Jacques: it felt like having a magnifying glass. I kept the microphone quite discreet and I even took off my headphones. A coffee-machine in a bar, the “smell machine” at the Grappa museum [but it sounds like a drill!], a sewer.

This walk has fed senses, imagination, the brain has become interested in something, as Jacques states.

At the end of the day Dany puts on a recording of a situation Silvia is supposed to recognise, but she doesn’t. It’s Silvia working in Bassano a couple of months ago. This may spur a research on the memory of sound, the memory of hearing. Allegedly, as Dany says, smell is the sense we keep the longest in our mind.

Guy suggests recording may distort the real, original sound, whereas through the same ingredients you can recreate the same smell.

Perhaps by identifying memorable sound ingredients, the hearing experience could be easier to archive in one’s memory.